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EcoWaste Coalition: What Not to Give This Christmas

17 December 2018, Quezon City. With the Christmas shopping spree in full swing, a toxics watch group drew consumers’ attention on what products to avoid this gift-giving season.

The EcoWaste Coalition has identified holiday gift items sold from P150 and below that consumers should refrain from buying because of their undisclosed lead content.

Lead is a highly poisonous chemical that is known to cause irreparable and irreversible mental and physical impairment affecting children as well as adults. Young children are most susceptible to the adverse effects of lead exposure as their brains and nervous systems are still developing.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24 prohibits lead and lead compounds in the production of children’s toys and sets a 90 parts per million (ppm) total lead content limit for lead in paint.

“It’s nice to give and receive gifts during this joyous season. However, not many of us are aware that we might be giving dangerous gifts laden with hazardous substances such as lead, which can result in intellectual disability, developmental problems and other health woes for the innocent recipient,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Some gift items may pose choking and other hazards that are likewise a threat to a child’s health and safety,” he added.

To raise consumer awareness on the need to be cautious when buying gifts, the EcoWaste Coalition released a list of items procured from retailers in Divisoria, Manila and subsequently screened for lead content using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.

The items provided no information and warning about their lead content, and were all inadequately labeled. The toys, in particular, lack the required market authorization from health authorities.

Among the gift items found to contain lead above the 90 ppm limit are as follows:

  1. A red and yellow coated “Naruto Shippuden” fidget spinner, 198,900 ppm
  2. A tall yellow-painted “Hi,I’m Monkey” vacuum flask, 33,400 ppm
  3. A short yellow-painted “Despicable Me” vacuum flask, 28,600 ppm
  4. A green “Mickey Mouse” glass cup, 25,800 ppm
  5. A yellow “Spongebob” glass cup, 24,300 ppm
  6. A “Wonderful” xylophone, 9,696 ppm
  7. Several “Kai Xin” laser toys with lead content ranging from 630 to 4,632 ppm
  8. A mini-xylophone, 1,994 ppm
  9. “Funny Toys” lizards, 1,885 ppm
  10. Toy farm animals, 1,161 ppm

Additionally, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to avoid giving dolls, soft balls and squeaky toys that are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, which may contain toxic additives such as lead stabilizers and phthalate plasticizers.

The EcoWaste Coalition with support from IPEN (an international NGO network promoting safe chemicals policies and practices) had earlier published a report entitled “Harmful Chemicals Detected in Toys Sold in the Philippines.”

For consumer health and safety, the report recommended that buyers should “examine product labels for chemical safety and health information and avoid purchasing items with undisclosed chemical contents.”

It urged “the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry to promulgate the long-delayed Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act,” and further urged “the Senate to expedite the enactment of the proposed Safe and Non-Toxic Children’s Product Act.”

“Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers should not engage in the production, trade and sale of toys and other children’s products containing hazardous chemicals such as those included on the Philippines Priority Chemical List, Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and other relevant laws and regulations,” the report suggested.

“Manufacturers should actively generate and disclose the chemical content of toys and children’s products as a condition for sale in the Philippines and to make such information readily available through adequate and comprehensible product labels and warnings,” the report added.